Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pegasus Crash Site Tour and ANITA Launch: December 16-18, 2014

Tuesday was another quiet day in McMurdo. There was some talk of attempting another ANITA launch, but the weather wasn't good enough for them to even try. I spent most of the day working in our extra cubicle. There's a congressional delegation in town that was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday but it got delayed because of weather.

Wednesday I also spent most of the day in the cubicle. In the evening, though, I got to go on a trip out to the Pegasus crash site. On October 8, 1970, a Lockheed Martin C-121 Constellation called Pegasus crashed while flying in to McMurdo. Most of the plane is still there, abandoned, and the recreation department has been organizing trips out to the crash site. We met in town around 6pm, and even though 10 people were signed up, only four of us and the guide showed up. I was the only SuperTIGER person on my trip; Thomas went Thursday morning and Sean is scheduled to go on Friday. We got into a van for the hour-long trip out to the crash site, which is about a mile past Pegasus Field, the airfield where we landed after getting to McMurdo two weeks ago. Unlike two years ago, though, the ski aircraft are all being flown out of Willy Field, so right now Pegasus isn't being used except as a divert field for incoming planes and a weather observation station. The road past Willy Field had a lot of drifted snow on it and the trip had to go pretty slow.

When we got to the wreck, we couldn't see any of the surrounding area because of the weather. It actually made going around and climbing on the plane a lot cooler. It was strange to think about the plane sitting out there for all these years, and also amazing to realize that in the plane crash there were no deaths and just a few minor injuries.

We brought a couple of shovels from McMurdo, and ended up spending most of the time digging out the UNITED STATES NAVY lettering painted on the side. It looks like the inside of the plane is filled up with snow and ice.

After about 45 minutes at the plane, we went back to McMurdo. I met up with Sean and Thomas and we went to the galley for a snack (really a late dinner for me). On our way in, Sean and I accidentally photobombed some astronauts. The Congressional delegation came in a little after us and had their dinner too. I ended up showing a member of the U.S. House of Representatives where they keep the bowls for Frosty Boy, so that was pretty exciting. Thursday they spent out in the McMurdo Dry valleys, and tomorrow they're going to the pole. 

I got up early Thursday morning to see how the 6th ANITA launch attempt was going. I ended up going back to sleep a couple of times while I waited, but eventually, around 9:30, I saw that inflation of the balloon had begun. Once inflation starts, the launch is normally about an hour away, so I got dressed and walked out to the hill above Scott Base to watch the launch. It was pretty cool.
ANITA just after the balloon is released
The ANITA balloon over the LDB site

ANITA in flight

After that, I went back to town and had lunch. I worked on a couple of things in the cubicle before Thomas showed up with the Iridium satellite phone we'll be using in the field. Once I finished up what I was working on, I went down to Crary Lab, where they have an antenna set up so that you can communicate with the satellites and test your satellite phone from the comfort of a heated room. Thomas came by a little bit after I got there and we tested the phone out, making sure we could make calls. We also got a computer from the Crary tech folks that is able to use the phone as a satellite modem, so we should be able to use that computer to send updates via email in the field (although the modem is excruciatingly slow, even compared to McMurdo internet). Before we go into the field I'll be sure to post where we'll be trying to update.

Friday morning they may launch COSI early, so I'll have more on that tomorrow if it happens.

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